Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Social Network

I don't care how accurate it is.

This is the first thing to understand about how I look at movies that are "based on a true story." Facts are inconsequential in the realm of art. As Oscar Wilde said;
The function of an artist is to invent, not chronicle.
Anybody working in this genre who's any good at all knows that emotional "truth" is vastly more important than things like "facts." If you invent a scene that allows your audience to understand your characters better, that's far more important than the nuts and bolts of "what really happened." There's nothing more annoying to me than when some idiot starts trying to nitpick a film that's working exceedingly well for inconsequential things like "that conversation wasn't outside that office, it was on the roof."

Because, let's be absolutely clear here...The Social Network is probably the best film you'll see this year. It's also vastly important, in that it understands, more than any other film I've seen, what the internet means to our society right now. The narcissism, the greed, the anger, the need for attention that drives it. The moment that leads to the invention of Facebook, as portrayed in this movie, is absolutely, 100% emotionally honest.

We all understand why Mark Zuckerberg (Played to absolute perfection by Jessie Eisenberg) takes the action he does in the opening moments of the film. We understand he's scum, and that he lives up to being called "an asshole" in the opening minutes. Yet, we've all felt as he does, and we all know that the internet is there for us to inflict our emotional state upon the world. There's even a line where he says something to the effect of, "I was drunk, angry, and blogging."

That's probably the best definition of the internet I've ever heard.

I've been excited about this film for almost a year, when I heard rumors about the brilliance of Aaron Sorkin's script. The rumors are true, the script is tight, juggling multiple storylines and time periods deftly, and always keeps story and character at the forefront in making the points it wants to get across. The Social Network is social commentary, but it's compelling drama, first and foremost.

I got even more excited when David Fincher came on board as director. I am a huge, huge, huge fan of Fincher's film Zodiac, which is just brilliance on legs. He's deft with a camera, and yet keeps storytelling to the forefront, and clear. It's on display in all his work, from Alien3 to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's Zodiac, however, that made me confident...it's the same sort of sprawling, multiple-viewpoints story. He does not disappoint.

As information and trailers started to get out, I did notice that a lot of people didn't quite get what the film was after. I heard a lot of "they made a movie about fucking Facebook!?!" I'll admit, the trailer, which was really interesting when you get what the point of the movie is, can be read as a Facebook advertisement. To be clear...this is not a cynical attempt to jump on the Facebook raze. Sorkin and Fincher have correctly surmised what Facebook represents, in terms of how we, as a society, view the internet, and seen how the story of it's creation is a reflection of that.

The performances are really sharp across the board. Eisenberg is a performer I've enjoyed a lot, he was particularly good in Adventureland, but, in playing Zuckerberg, he rises to a whole new level. It's deeply interesting and focused work. I became transfixed on how he would contort his lower lip in times of emotional stress. It's a specific, clear choice that tells us so much about Mark as a character, and his ability to deal, or not deal, with emotional moments.

The entire ensemble is lovely, the soon-to-be Spider-Man Andrew Garfield is just hearbreaking as original Facebook CEO Eduardo Saverin. His performance is always compelling, and, when you see how bad a situation he's allowed himself to slip into, you feel the betrayal as fully as he does. Justin Timberlake, as Napster founder Sean Parker is oily as hell, but walks that fine line, so you can see how his charisma could pull Zuckerberg into his fold. I also really liked almost-Batman-in-Justice League Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins. The effects work in his sequences is exquisite, but it's Hammer's sharp differences between the two that makes it really believable.

The Social Network is truly THE film of the year. I am looking forward to other releases in the next few months (True Grit....ahhhhhh), but I can't imagine any film feeling as "of the moment" as this one. This is today's story, about today's society, being told RIGHT NOW, and it's brilliant. It's brilliant because it does all of those things without losing site that the most important thing is to tell a story.

Go see it.

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